‘Lalgarh’ As Reason

Voices from the Inside Out

Subhendu Dasgupta

The State, a lower court of the State, has punished Chatradhar Mahato, Sambhu Soren, Sagun Murmu, Sukhsanti Baske, Raja Sorkhel and Prasun Chattopa-dhyay. Punishment for Life. They, Chatradhar Mahato and the others, represent the Lalgarh Andolon. The State, in a way, has punished the Lalgarh Andolon.

Lalgarh is a land mostly of Adivasis who were forced to remain poor by the instruments of the State and the elements of Capital. It is administratively situated in the District of West Medini-pur, in West Bengal.

The State has punished the Lalgarh Andolon. Why?

In order to answer this question one will have to identify two sides. Side one: those who have given the punishment. Side two: those who were punished.

Side One includes the State, the administration, State Armed Forces, State policies, political parties who are in state power and those who want to be in state power. Side Two includes the residents of Lalgarh and others who want to be with them. These two Sides are different, contradictory and are in opposition.

Side One : The State
What has been done by the State?

The State has given the permission to an owner of big capital, Jindal, for the establishment of a steel factory in Lalgarh. For that the State has handed over 4,500 acres of governmental land. This land has actually been earmarked as Khas Land. Khas Land, according to the Land Reforms Act is kept reserved to be distributed to the landless peasants. The land that has legally to be  given to the landless peasants has been given illegally to a capitalist. This can be viewed from another point of view. The handed over land is a forest land. According to the Forest Rights Act 2006, the forest land belongs to those who live in the forest. There is another perspective. The Adivasi-land, according to the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Area) Act 1996, cannot be transferred to a non-Adivasi person, without taking permission from the concerned Adivasis. The State has also violated this Act. The State has disrespected the Rights of Lalgarhbasis and on the contrary respected the illegal claims of a Capitalist.

The State has declared the Jindal Project Area as a Special Economic Zone, SEZ. As a result, within the project area no governmental Acts regarding labour and pollution will be applicable. The adivasis who are supposed to get jobs here will not have due labour rights. The factory will pollute the surrounding environment, Subarnarekha river and the forest. These will create problems in the life of the adivasis. They will be evicted from their livelihood resources. The State has ignored the Adivasi Rights on livelihood resources. On the contrary the State has accepted the factory owner's 'Right to pollute'.

The State is with the mafias and the thikadars associated with forest woods and kendu leaves, the companies with eyes on the mineral resources under the forest and adivasi land. The State has never stood against them. On the contrary has protected them, and accepted their 'Rights to Loot'. On the other hand, the State has never honoured the Rights of forest-dwellers and adivasis.

The State on its own has marked the adivasis as 'criminals'. The Police Force had attacked the women of Chhotopelia, a village in Lalgarh at night, had damaged an eye of a woman, had killed a child in the womb of a pregnant mother, and had beaten up women after removing their clothes. The State had violated the Citizens' Right to Life. On the contrary had given its Force the 'Right to attack the citizens'.

The villagers of Lalgarh have constructed an Andolon (Movement) to protest the attack by the State on the women, the adivasis, and the villagers of Lalgarh. They formed an organization Police Santras Birodhi Janasadha-raner Comrnittee, a peoples' committee against the atrocities by the police forces. The Committee had framed a Charter of Demands and had asked the State to accept the legitimate demands of the Lalgarhbasi. The State rejected the Demands. Ignored the Rights of the Adivasis to frame their Demands, the Rights to ask the State to discuss their Demands. The State's response on the hand was attack on the Lalgarhbasis.

The State has given a name to this Project of Attack on its Citizens. Operation Green Hunt. An Operation to hunt the 'Greens'. To hunt the greens of the nature in Lalgarh. To hunt the Adivasis who live on the greens of Lalgarh. There were different forms and characters of this Hunt. Bringing in Joutha Bahini—a combined armed force of the state and the central Governments. The Central armed forces with different names. The construction of an Army helipad by destroying the forest.

In consistence with the physical attacks by the armed forces the State has brought in legal attacks. Introduction of UAPA—Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The prerogative of using the word 'unlawful' lies with the State. The activities of the citizens, those that are not acceptable to the State, are 'unlawful'. On the contrary, the activities of the State, those that are not acceptable to the citizens, are not 'unlawful'. By the introduction of UAPA the State has denied the 'Right to Protest" of the Lalgarhbasis. By the imposition of Clause 144 the State has denied the 'Right to Assemble" of the Adivasis of Lalgarh.

The State had attacked with its armed and legal weapons Lalgarh, the Lalgarhbasis.

The State had killed the members of Janasadharaner Committee. Had arrested, detained in the police station and jails and had tortured them. Had demolished and burned the houses, destroyed the household goods. Physically attacked the women. Attacked schools, tortured students and teachers. Searched the female students by undressing them. Made the Army Camps in the school buildings, denying the Rights of the students. Joutha Bahini has destroyed the forest, drinking water wells, mini tubewells, and shallow pumps. Demolished the Health Centres and constructed police outposts in these places.

The State has denied the Rights to livelihood of the Lalgarhbasis.

The State has launched armed attack on the day before the scheduled day for the discussion between the State and the Committee. The State preferred attacking the Lalgarhbasis than holding discussions with them. The State disobeyed the Lalgargbasis' Right to negotiate with the State.

The State has not yet disclosed the data on the number of women raped and tortured, number of children wounded, number of people arrested, number of people under trial, number of people detained in the Jails, as a result of Operation Green Hunt.

The invader State has denied, disrespected the Civil Rights, Democratic Rights of the Lalgarhbasis, of the Adivasis and the Banabasis of Lalgarh.

After understanding Side One: the State in the frame of Rights, now to look at Side Two.

Side Two consists of the Lalgarhbasis, Adivasis, Banabasis of Lalgarh, their natural resources, their livelihood resources, their education, their health, the women, the children, the men, their respect, their dignity, and similar others.

This Side Two has been attacked by Side One. Side Two has protested, resisted, constructed a movement, raised demands. To assert their Rights. Democratic Rights. Human Rights. The Democratic Rights of the Lalgarhbasis. Human Rights of the Adivasis.

What has been done by the Lalgarhbasis to assert their Rights?

Boycott of Police administration. Demand for justice for Police atrocities. Justice for the violation of the dignity of the women by the State. Demands for opening schools taken over for camps for the Armed forces. Respect for the dignity of the Adivasis.

After the declaration of election, as proposed, political parties were to be allowed to enter the villages for campaigns, but without any police escorts. For the electoral process the staffs could enter the villages but without any police support. The security of the staffs would be ensured by the villagers. The villagers would take the responsibility of carrying the ballot boxes before and after the election. The electoral observers would be from the members of the civil society. The villagers would participate in the election.

The Jindal factory area could not be declared as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

Demand for the Autonomy for the Jangal Mahal in compliance with the Fifth and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.

Rights of the Adivasis over the forest resources of the area, for example wood, kendu leaves, non-timber forest products. Shal leaves were transported to the akhras of Mahajans in Orissa. This work had to be done in Lalgarh bringing in electricity in the area.

The 13-point Charter of Demands prepared by the Dalilpur Chak Conference : The condemned Police Super had to apologise openly by holding his ears with his hands. He had to declare openly that henceforth no villagers would be arrested at any time under any pretext. No women could be arrested at all. The police staff that had attacked the women in the Chhotopelia village will have to travel from the Dalilpur Chak to the Chhotopelia Village by rubbing their noses on the ground. The Armed Forces had to be removed. The attacks on local clubs and 'gaonta' have to be stopped. Police will not enter the villages between 5pm to 6am. There will be no police camps in the schools and the Panchayat Office.

These were the Demands, the demands for civil rights. Demands for democratic rights. For raising the demands a movement was formed. A different form of movement. Formation of Police Santras Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee. Almost every day assemblies of thousands of people in an open space and discussions, debates, framing of policies and the implementation of the decisions. People's representation through participation. Janaganer Committee in every village with equal representation from men and women. Women were not only participants but decision makers. All the decisions were taken through discussions within the committees. It was started with the representation of 95 villages. Ultimately it became 300. An Area Committee was formed with 20 Gram Committees. A Central committee was formed with all the Area Committees. Decisions travelled from the base upwards and down again. Gram Pratiraksha Committees were formed especially in the villages near broader roads.

Distribution of leaflets for campaign: Boycott the Police. Social boycott of police by the grocers, cobblers and haircutters. Mass resistance. Spreading the news of arrival of the armed forces in the villages through beating dhamsas and madals and through mobile phones. Assembly of women in a short period of time for resistance as well as to be in the forefront. The women used to throw questions to the forces.

The Police Stations from where 'the rule of law' was operated were kept under lock by the Janasadharaner Committee. Trees were kept on the road to resist the Forces from entering the area. Resisted the Armed Forces from entering the village Peliachak. Participation of a large number of women in the resistance. Gheraoed the Central Reserve Force.

In order to get their voices heard in Kolkata, the State capital, and in New Delhi, the Central capital, the villagers squatted on the railway tracks of Rajdhani Express.

The list of people killed by the Armed Forces was published by the Committee. The geographical area of the Andolon was spread all over Jangal Mahal.

The Andolon was made to connect to the tradition of movements for rights of Adivasis, Banabasis and Bhumibasis over their land, hills and forest.

Framing of the Village Development Programme. Participation of the villagers in the implementation of the Programme, Distribution of Khas Land. Construction of small dams to deposit rain water for irrigation. Installation of mini tube wells and shallow pumps. Cleaning of canals. Construction of moram loads. Health centres with the help from doctors and health workers from Kolkata. Cooperative agriculture. Emphasis on the proper implementation of governmental schemes. Women's movement against alcohol. Movement for self-confidence. To associate the Andolon with the history of the tribal movement.

These are the two sides. The two sides of the Lalgarh Andolon. The Two sides of a mass movement, an adivasi movement, a rights movement. On one side there is the State, its different elements and instruments. On the other side Lalgarhbasis, adivasis, banabasis.

On the one side there are the State's programmes. Denial, disrespect, demolition of civil and democratic rights of Lalgarhbasis.

On the other side there are Civil, democratic and human rights of Lalgarhbasis. Their right to life with dignity, right to livelihood. Equal rights for women. Right to self-rule. Right to organize. Right to establish and to experiment on self construction and self dependence.

These two sides are different, are in opposition and are antagonistic.

In this Structure the State is in power and is in a position to give punishment. Thus the State has given punishment to the Lalgarh Andolon. And at present, the Lalgarhbasis are in a situation to get punishment. Thus 6 persons have been given life imprisonment, 55 are now in Medinipur Jail and 11 are in Bankura Jail.

The State has given punishment to Lalgarh Andolon. The punishment has been imposed on the charge of Sedition, 'Rashtrodrohita', and 'Droho' against 'Rashtro'. Let us try to understand which activities of the Lalgarh Andolon are, as the State considers 'droho', seditious.

Only the State approved political parties have the right to organize movements. For the others it would be considered seditious. The Police Santras Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee, an organization formed by the Lalgarhbasis with their democratic rights, is not a State approved organization. So it is a seditious activity. The Lalgarhbasis have made themselves prepared so that the established political parties can not hijack the movement as happened in the Singur and Nandigram movements. As a result, the State approved big political parties have not supported the Lalgarh Andolon. Thus the Lalgarh Andolon is a seditious activity, a Rashtrodrohita.

The State approved form of movement is the only legal pattern of Andolon. The other forms are seditious. To ask apology from police is not a state sanctioned style of movement, whatever be the nature of crime the police had performed. The Police are considered as representatives of the State. To ask apology from a police seems asking apology from the State. And the State thinks that one cannot ask apology from any element of the State. The State thinks that the State cannot do any wrong. Thus to ask apology from the police is a seditious activity, Rashtrodrohita.

During the Lalgarh Andolon the Police were boycotted, were not allowed to enter the villages and thus the Lalgarhbasis have shown that the Police Force was not necessary there, have proved that the absence of the Force was a better option for the peaceful existence for the villagers. To show that the 'Rule of Law' and the operation of the Force are not synonymous. All these thoughts and actions are seditious, 'Rashtrodrohita'.

The organizational structure of the political parties are pyramidical. A non-democratic operational pattern and power structure. On the other side, the structure of Police Santras Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee is democratic in true sense. All the decisions have travelled to and from between the Gram Committees and the Central Committee. Almost every day there were assemblies of the villagers in an open space for discussions and for taking decisions. This pattern of political movement is against the practice of the government approved political parties, and thus it is seditious, 'Rashtrodrohita'.

According to the State, the Election is such a state project that has to be conducted under the supervision of the armed forces. On the contrary the Lalgarh Andolon had proposed that for a peaceful election process the presence of armed forces was not a necessary condition. The people, the Lalgarhbasis themselves could ensure that. In a sense this proposal had shown the presence of armed forces to be irrelevant. The State thought that this proposal was seditious. Because to the State, the State Armed Forces and the State are coterminous. Non-acceptance of this is 'Rastrodrohita'.

The Lalgarhbasis as a part of their political movement had constructed an economic movement. This economic movement had created mass economic development programmes, based on their lifestyle, tracing from their history and philosophy. This people's economic development programme was against the objective of the State development programme. And thus is seditious, 'Rashtradroho'.

The movement of Adibasis for their self-assertion, self-rule is against the State project of 'One India'. So the demand for Autonomy following the Fifth and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India is a seditious action, 'Rashtrodrohita'.

Autumn Number, Vol. 48, No. 14 - 17, Oct 11 - Nov 7, 2015